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Readings in Quebec History


Last revised:
23 August 2000

Constitutional Act

Claude Bélanger,
Department of History,
Marianopolis College

Act passed in 1791 by the Parliament of Great Britain to provide for the administration of the Province of Quebec and to meet the demands of the new British subjects who had flocked to the province following the American Revolution. The statute separated the old Province of Quebec into two new colonies: Upper and Lower Canada. The former would be primarily English speaking (present day Southern Ontario) and was expected to introduce English Common Law and to establish officially the Church of England; the latter would be primarily French speaking (present day Southern Quebec) where French Civil Laws would be applied and where the Roman Catholic Church would predominate. The bill also granted representative assemblies to both colonies. These colonial legislatures would control the civil list and raise revenues for the good government of their territories. Executive power would rest in the hands of a governor in each colony and he was to be assisted in his task by an executive council whose members would be chosen by him and would not be responsible for their actions to the assemblies. This last provision - the lack of responsibility in the executive branch - is a factor that led to the Rebellions of 1837-1838 in Upper and Lower Canada and to the sending of Lord Durham to Canada to investigate the situation.


Meeting of the first elected Legislative Assembly

of Lower Canada in 1792


© 1998 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College